Posted on December 7th, 2016 2 comments
My 101Hero 3d printer from Kickstarter was billed as the world’s most affordable 3d printer. At $104 USD plus shipping, it was pretty close. The 101Hero achieved its low-cost design goals by using injection-molded plastic parts, small stepper motors, minimal electronics, and a tiny light-weight extruder head.
The big question, of course, is: Does it work? The short answer is: No.
The unit arrived well-packaged and in good condition. Assembly went fairly easily, despite sparse written instructions, as there is a fairly good assembly video available online.
All parts were in the package, including a selection of unidentified filaments in various colors; all necessary hardware was there; there were no visible manufacturing defects. The resulting printer was far from sturdy or stable, as might be expected from a light-weight plastic frame.
The Developer Version (DV) contains both an SD card slot and a USB Type B port; I used the SD card. The 101Hero.com website has a tiny downloadable test file that prints a six-point star for setting up the printer. The print is two lines wide and three layers deep. It took a few minutes to get the printer adjusted, but after that it printed several very nice stars that I hung on our Christmas tree.
Next, I selected what looked like a good print from 101land.com, the 207 Fish Bone, in a white filament that I assume is PLA. The first few layers were mushed together; despite all the
test stars, it looked like the extruder was not moving up enough with each layer. After a few good layers, the head moved up too fast, and started laying strings of filament in mid air. A few minutes later, it settled down and began printing fairly well except that periodically the head would jump about 1 mm “up” and “right” as I looked at the print bed. It would then print a dozen or so layers well, then jump again. These jumps can be clearly seen in the photos.
A little research suggested that the jumps were mechanical, probably when the filament snagged on the top of the printer or got caught on the wiring or when a slide bearing grabbed a bit on a
rod. Okay, so we’ll clean up the installation. A little gold tape to bind the wiring and snazz it up a bit. A few decimeters of aluminum angle and a smooth bolt created a filament holder. A little light motor oil on all the rods. I loaded the Motor Movement test file from the 101Hero site and ran the head up and down a few times. No snags, all movement smooth and easy.
Time to try the fishy again. This time we’ll use black filament (PLA?). The first few layers go down beautifully. I can see detail — gill slits, an eye, the teeth, the place where the hinge of the tail will go. But there are some issues. The fill does not quite meet the outline in places. Still, three layers build one atop the other.
After that, though, the same error as for the white Fish 1 occurred – two offset steps and a wild, random-seeming tangle of strings laid in mid-air. This time, rather than waste filament and time, I aborted the print.
No snags, no hesitations, the slides moving cleanly, filament feeding smoothly. But clearly, something went very, very wrong.
The RepRap Print Trouble Shooting Pictorial Guide shows stringy prints with stepwise offsets, but the solutions involve changes to print settings and g-code that simply should not apply. This is a special file from the manufacturer of the 101Hero, and it should not contain g-code errors. It should, after setup, print these custom files flawlessly.
So instead of spending my time printing, I’ll be diddling around trying to get the printer to work. You get what you pay for, I guess.
Posted on November 30th, 2016 No comments
Went online to buy my wife a Christmas present on Black Friday: A pair of Manitobah Mukluks, the high Snowy Owl waterproof ones. The special Black Friday deal was a free pair of furry moccasins (this week, they offer free mittens — order now!).
Manitobah Mukluks is “an Aboriginal-owned company” whose “vision is to build a vibrant, global brand that makes a significant impact in Aboriginal Communities.” They boast “one of a kind, hand-crafted works of art,” for their top product line. Their tagline is “Authentic Aboriginal Footwear”. CEO and founder Sean McCormick is of Métis descent; he says: We…take pride in being Canadian, which is why we continue to produce 20 per cent of our footwear at our Indigenous-owned production facility in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Well, hey, that’s cool, let’s buy a pair. Wonder where the other 80% are produced.
On first try, the boots were out of stock, and the online chat agent told me there were no rain checks for Black Friday; out of stock meant out of luck.
Still, I hunted around on the web site and found a place where I could post my email address to be notified when more stock came in. I thought I might be notified later in the week, and would get the boots without the free moccasins. Too bad, but no tragedy. To my great surprise, within a couple of hours I was notified that what I wanted, the right style and size, were now in stock. I immediately placed my order.
They arrived within a week. Wow, that was fast! I don’t usually recommend companies or products, but these guys were good. Both mukluks and moccasins look nice and fit well.
They came with a Certificate of Authenticity, which guarantees that “the product you have purchased was made by a Canadian Aboriginal Company…as certified by CAMSC…the official certifying organization in Canada for Aboriginal-owned businesses.”
They do look quite nice, but not quite….authentic. Vibram soles, well, yes, that makes them waterproof. Okay, a modernization for urban customers. According to a MM chat agent, the footwear is made from rabbit fur (a by-product of domestic meat industry in Europe) and suede and grain-leather from cattle. Again, a modern adaptation, as domestic trapping could not supply the amount of product needed. Fair enough.
The moccasins have a label stiched in that reads “Proudly Canadian”. But inside each moccasin and mukluk is a tiny tag that, when you flip it over, reads “Made in Vietnam”. Can you say, “irony”?
Okay, so Indigenous-owned does not necessarily mean “Aboriginal-made”. At least, not made by Canadian aboriginals. Kind of disappointing. Still, I’m sure the Vietnamese are indigenous to Vietnam. So nothing about this company is misleading, right? It’s not really inaccurate, right?
Wherever they’re made, they look nice and warm, and my wife likes them. Brownie points for me.
Posted on November 28th, 2016 No comments
NATIONAL SQUARE DANCE DAY
TUESDAY – NOVEMBER 29, 2016
Square Dancing has its roots in traditional English, Irish and Scottish folk dance. Square dances were first documented in 17th century England. Today, square dancing is mainly associated with a romanticized image of the Old West, and cowboys wooing Southern belles during dances organized in saloons.
To celebrate this new annual event, which is being celebrated in both the USA and Canada, how about the Square Dance Clubs that do not dance on Tuesday evening organize a group of their dancers and go visiting one of the Clubs that host a square dance on Tuesday – November 29.
This a wonderful opportunity to gather and celebrate square dancing, have some fun, meet new dancers, and maybe even steal a mascot. And it’s also a wonderful opportunity for the general public to see some modern square dancing, so be sure to invite some non-dancing friends to stop by, meet the dancers, join in the fun or take part in the after-party.
For information about square dancing in your area, google “square dance (your city)” without the quote marks or parentheses. This should get local club contact information. You can also try http://wheresthedance.com/clubs.php
Posted on November 28th, 2016 No comments
My inbox has been filled with ads promoting wonderful deals for Cyber Monday.
Woah! Books from Amazon. Caribbean cruises from Princess and a couple of travel agents. 3D printers from makerbot. RV toys from HobbyKing. Almost everything from Gearbest. Office supplies from Staples. Discount domains from my web host. Campaigns from Indiegogo. Clothes from MEC and UnderArmour. Discount DNA analysis from a few family history places.
Now, if I were only in the market for this stuff and could take advantage of the Cyber Monday deals. If nothing else, it’s led me to cancel a bunch of subscriptions and clean up my inbox.
Posted on November 27th, 2016 No comments
An exciting game, where Calgary tied the score with 10 seconds left in the game. Ottawa won in overtime by an unconverted TD.
What impressed me throughout, though, was the officiating. How those guys in the striped shirts can see things so quickly on the field and in the mêlée just amazes me. In almost all the cases, the control-room review backed up the call in the field. They were quick, they were accurate, they were fair and impartial.
Back in 2009, CFL officials were paid between $550 and $850 per game; officials are all part-time and one official reported making $15000 a year officiating. In 2014, the average CFL player salary was close to $90,000; with 16 games per team in the regular season, that’s $5500 per game, roughly ten times the pay of the officials. Yet the game wouldn’t work as well without the officials.
I think they’re underappreciated and underpaid.
Posted on November 26th, 2016 No comments
The event, a free social evening organized by the church, consisted of games, dinner, an auction, and dance.
At various games, participants could win play money to be used during the auction. The games were old “penny carnival” favorites and some western-themed activities
- Ring Toss around water bottles
- Bean Bag Toss
- Ball toss to knock down beverage glasses
- Steer roping (where a sawhorse “steer” waited patiently while standing particpants tossed a lasso)
- Calf roping (ditto, except the cowpoke was on a barrel “horse” while roping)
- Target shooting with an Airsoft assault rifle
Following the games, we had a very nice chicken dinner, then the auction for homemade pies and various other items, including an uncured wolf pelt. The bidding was fast and furious, especially for the blue-ribbon pies, and as a result the auction went a little overtime.
The dance, originally scheduled for 8-9 pm, started about 8:45 and went until 9:40. We had five squares to start, and wound down to two squares as the night advanced and people trickled home. It was a good dance and people seemed to be having a good time.
A big thanks to the church for inviting us, and to all the volunteers (especially the young people) for their work in organizing the event.
Photos courtesy Dawn Gray. We blurred the faces but left the smiles!
Posted on November 23rd, 2016 No comments
The 101Hero is the smallest and cheapest 3D printer I had seen during the summer (there are some that have since passed it). It’s a delta printer with a tiny build volume and slow print speed. But it was so cheap! Even though I came in late and had to spend $104 USD on the celebrity porn indiegogo pre-order, plus $30 S/H, that’s a third of the price of the M3DPro and a sixth of the cost of the Trinus. Obviously, I started high and have been stepping down.
The price and simplicity of the 101Hero attracted me. It also attracted Angus Deveson at Maker’s Muse — I was surprised to see his name in the backers list, so I checked out his video. He jumped in early and got it for $49 USD, smart kid.
Yes, it’s made of plastic. Yes, it’s slow. Yes, it has a small build volume. Yes, it uses cheap geared stepper motors. Yes, it might be a shaky POS. Yes to all the above. But… but…Really? A 3D printer for $100 USD? Will it work? Will it be another Peachy scandal?
Amazingly enough, the 101Hero might even be the first printer to reach my workbench. A batch of 2000 was shipped in October, according to the company, and today I got an email asking to confirm my order and delivery address. The M3DPro is not scheduled to ship until next spring, which means probably next fall; and the Trinus might ship this month.
Guess I got a little carried away.
Posted on November 22nd, 2016 1 comment
When you have 1500 people in your family tree, it’s pretty easy to find something interesting that happened <drumroll> This Month in Our Family History.
- 8 Nov 1863 – birth of Myra Etta Shafer, second wife of James Aaron “Dad” Gaff. The two had 10 children, Myra DeOlive, Frances Folsom, Alla A., James Harry, Estys Myra, Eva Marie, Enea, Nelson, Ellis, and Ethel Madge.
- 17 Nov 1879 – birth of John Wesley Gray, son of John Kepford Gray and Phoebe Ellen Ellis, in Dellvale, Norton, Kansas
- 24 Nov, 1983 – birth of our third son, Bradley Joseph Gray. Happy birthday, Brad!
What’s going on in your family in November? Same old same old? Frantic Christmas shopping? Vacation planning?
Posted on November 22nd, 2016 No comments
I have been talking with my local library about their Makerspace. I had offered them my old Cupcake 3D printer, which they politely declined, saying that many of the local libraries had phased out their 3D printing section because of repeated problems with print settings and quality. They were also reluctant to have people using the library computers to download files, or bringing files in on USB keys, because of security risks.
Anyway, after I backed the Trinus 3D Printer on Kickstarter, I found the M3D Pro which promises “intelligent sensor feedback” to catch and correct various printing errors. Like the Trinus, it is a Cartesion (XYZ) printer, a little bit slower in print speed and looking not nearly as solid as the Trinus but with a larger build volume.
Built by the same folks who brought out the successful M3D Micro a few years ago — where almost 12,000 backers raised black porn over $3.4 million — the Pro version claims superior energy efficiency (45W compared to 60W for the Trinus) and superior features. For the Pro, just over 1000 backers have invested just under $500,00 (plus a few more backers and bucks on Indiegogo pre-orders), and early backers got the unit for $399 USD plus shipping. Dang! I came in late and had to pay $549 USD with shipping — less than the Trinus.
What caught my eye, though, was that the M3D Pro
- Claims to offer auto-leveling and auto-calibration. No messing about with settings.
- Doesn’t need a computer tether: people can bring their project on an SD card and plug it in to print.
- Offers “embedded recovery mode” to recover from power failures, pauses, nozzle jams, or filament outages
- Uses an “advanced sensor network” of two dozen sensors to ensure reliability and consistency of prints
These characteristics made me think it might be suitable as a loaner to the library. On specified dates, I’d bring the printer in to the library and patrons could try it out, perhaps leaving it there for projects to finish printing under staff supervision. I’d expect the library to provide filament. Details still to be worked out with the library’s program director.
Because of M3D LLC’s previous experience with the Micro, they may have a smoother transition from R&D to Production than some other crowdfunded campaigns. The M3D Pro is scheduled to ship in March, 2017.
Which means I can hope to get mobile porn it for Christmas 2017. The library will just have to wait.
Posted on November 21st, 2016 1 comment
STRUGGLING UP THE CLIFF
The Challenge of Becoming a Caller
Opinion by Tom Gray
The editor of Alberta Chatter, a square dance newsletter, invited me to submit an article on the process of learning to call. The result is based on personal experience, discussion with other new callers in caller schools, and posts on the Facebook groups Callers in Training and Newbie Callers.
Why become a caller? In my case, it looked like fun, a challenge, something new, something I thought I might be good at because I enjoy teaching and singing. I had noted the camaraderie among callers and wanted to be part of that. Some have admired a particular caller. Others have had to take over when a club suddenly needed a caller and no one else was available (or willing). Occasionally, someone is persuaded to give it a try at a “goof night” and find that they enjoy it. However you get started up the cliff, climbing requires a considerable investment in money, time, and effort.
Cost of Equipment and Music
Learning to call can be costly. I’ve spent some $3000 or more on equipment and music — and I’m just getting started. Even used equipment can be expensive. And after your main purchase of a sound system (amp and speakers), there are the extras — microphones $100+ each, Hilton mic cable $110 US, ADC sound cards, misc. patch cords etc. gear case $80+, wireless mic $500+ etc. With all this gear, clearly a caller also doubles as a sound technician. Care and maintenance of equipment also factors in.
Music is a second major outlay in money and time. New records and MP3 files run about $7 USD plus S/H, plus time spent in selecting, reviewing, and ordering. Callers typically have hundreds of songs; do the math. Old records are $1 or free, but going thru them and listening is time-consuming. Listen to the called side adds more time. Learning what’s good for your singing voice, style, and personality takes time; listening to new music and deciding if it suits you takes even more time. Converting vinyl to digital takes 5 to 15 min per song (transfer plus cleanup). It all adds up.
Memberships and dues also add up — Callerlab membership $105 USD/yr; SoCan membership $67.20 CAD/yr; other professional organizations – about $60+/yr. Depends on what you join. Caller Schools run $500 or more each, a little less for workshops; add travel and accommodation. Add in mileage, wear and tear on vehicle and time away from spouse and family.
Learning to Speak/Sing — Vocal skills
Good diction is a plus – you need clear enunciation. You also need to learn precise delivery in time to the music, and how to to set the sound system to best enhance your voice. Speech lessons come in handy (I did two years of Toastmasters to learn public speaking skills, for example). While “a half-decent singing voice” is generally considered to be of value, of greater benefit is having a sense of rhythm and a sense of timing. Singing lessons can help (many callers sing or have sung in community and church choirs; many take private lessons). However, it’s my observation that the best callers are excellent performers (if not excellent singers).
Time Commitment — Practice, Practice, Practice
Dancers probably do not realize how much time and work goes into learning to call. Working out or checking choreography, rehearsing, and practicing with dolls and calling software takes hours each week. Initially, it took me 6 hours to prep for a two-hour gig (such as a wedding dance or church group), because I want to give them both their money’s worth and my very best effort. Fortunately, it takes less time now, and I’ve had some great times calling those “one night stands”. Besides, they’re the only way I make money calling! I have spent hundreds of hours practicing in my garage, my basement, my office, my car — practicing singing calls, timing on patter etc. And this time is largely wasted because it’s done without live dancers. You get a live square, you call something you’ve practiced for hours, the dancers do something you don’t expect (but maybe could have, with more experience), and … now what? You can’t practice for that unless you’ve got dancers to practice with.
Technique, Delivery & Performance
Some newbies can step up to a mic and deliver a dynamite dance (Brad Slepicka for example, who wowed with his debut at age 14) but most of us learn more slowly. Proper use of calls, what’s correct and when to use them, plus timing, flow, dancer movement for good choreography, all come bit by bit. We learn technical aspects of formation, arrangement, sequence, relationship, quadrants, symmetry; when to “stack” calls and when not to; how to resolve a square (get everybody back home or to an Allemande Left). Entire caller schools are devoted to the theory and practice of calling.
When you step onstage, it helps to be an extrovert, a bit of a show off. If you’re not, it’s a steeper uphill climb. The top callers are also excellent entertainers, who deliver with style and personality. “Have fun – enjoy life and smile when you call. You can hear the smile on the microphone.” ~ advice from Mel Wilkerson, Australia. Easy for you to say, Mel!
Mastery of Memory
Starting to call at 20 must in many ways be easier than starting at 60. My mind was sharper at twenty! Certainly my memory was better back then. I’m finding if difficult to memorize material, in part because of the difference being onstage makes. Somehow holding a mic wipes the memory clean! Apparently, this is a well-known phenomenon. I CAN memorize songs or choreo that I’ve called on stage over and over. With only one tip here and there, progress has been slow.
Learning to Teach
To teach anything, you need an understanding of the material, knowledge of how learning takes place, and a great deal of patience and persistence. The newbie caller also has to overcome dancer attitude. “These new callers don’t know how to teach. You can’t let them loose on new dancers, they’ll ruin them.” (These are actual comments made by dancers who somehow forget that every one of their favorite callers was a beginner “back when”). Another common situation is being ambushed — the Club caller says, “I want you to teach XXX tonight.” No chance to prepare or review. Caller thinks he’s being a good mentor and coach for throwing the newbie into the deep end. Forgets he’s been doing it for decades and can probably do it in his sleep… but the new caller might need some prep time.
Support from Local Clubs
Many beginners feel that clubs could better support new callers. “We give the new caller one tip a week” is a common format. Consider this: how long would it take you to learn to square dance if you were allowed to dance only one tip a week? Oh, and how do you think a new caller feels when there are four squares in the hall and only one square (or fewer) get up for the newbie’s tip? The best way to encourage a new caller is to get up and dance.
Clubs are also reluctant to hire beginners. My own club has twice passed me over when looking for a replacement. Each time, they said I lacked experience, which is true, but they were unwilling to give me the opportunity to gain the experience I need. Nobody seemed to see the irony of that.
In areas with lots of excellent, experienced callers, clubs seem never to hire a new caller to do a guest spot or demo, either. Inevitably, they will pass over a newbie for a more experienced caller. You can’t blame the clubs for that: they want the best they can get. In such areas, it can be almost impossible for new callers to get a toehold, and the cliff begins to look insurmountable.